Chaika and Allan at the forefront of Raiders late playoff push

Tikhon Chaika has seen an improvement in his game over the last month. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders have been in playoff mode since about the 50 game mark of the season.

Prince Albert is right in the thick of a five team dogfight for the final two playoff spots in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with seven games left in the regular season. The club currently sits four points back of the Swift Current Broncos for the eighth and final playoff spot, and the Raiders will look to gain another two points on Wednesday night when they welcome the Brandon Wheat Kings.

They will be seeing the Wheat City crew twice this week—first on Wednesday and then again on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre. The Raiders dropped a 5-3 decision in Brandon on March 25, which kicked off their three game Manitoba road trip.

Tikhon Chaika got the start on Friday night in the loss, and he was also in goal for Prince Albert’s 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg ICE on Sunday night. Aside from last weekend, Chaika has been lights out over his last 13 starts. With three shutouts in that stretch, as well as a .910 SV% and a 2.55 GAA, the rookie import goaltender has been doing his part to keep Prince Albert’s playoff hopes alive.

He says it’s been easy to focus on doing his job between the pipes lately, despite the pressure on the team.

“I just don’t think about it, I’m always focused on playing hard,” Chaika said. “My defenceman and the rest of the guys help me to do my job. If we work hard as a team all game, it makes it easier for me to do my job.”

Nolan Allan is one of those defenceman making Chaika’s job easier. The 18-year-old from Davidson has been hot on the offensive side of the puck, putting up 15 points over his last 19 games, while having a plus minus of zero. That rating took a bit of a hit on Sunday, when he went -4 in the loss to Winnipeg.

To say it’s been a breakout year for Allan would be a massive understatement. The first round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks has 33 points in 58 games so far this season, crushing his previous season high point total of eight from the 2019-20 season. It took him just 16 games to break his point record from that season, and he has been on a tear as of late.

Nolan Allan is enjoying a career year in the Western Hockey League with 33 points in 58 games. –Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

“In big games everyone has to be at their best, especially our leaders,” Allan said. “We have to lead the room and take charge, and that’s a big responsibility for us.”

Allan joined that leadership group this season after the Kaiden Guhle trade. Reece Vitelli was named the new captain, with Allan becoming an alternate as a result.

“We just need to keep our spirits up,” Allan added. “Obviously it sucks going 0-3 over the road trip, but it was pretty tough when you see Winnipeg twice and Brandon as well. We’re going to push forward here for this next little while and hopefully we can win a few more games.”

“We need wins, and we need to play good,” Chaika said. “We need to play our best, and enjoy the games we have. Wednesday’s game (against Brandon) is another game that we need to play hard as a team. We need to stay in our structure and do the right things.”

With two games in hand over the Broncos, the Raiders will be looking to crawl two points closer to the final playoff spot on Wednesday night. Swift Current is also in action against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who are in possession of the seventh playoff spot.

Puck drop between the Raiders and Wheat Kings from the Art Hauser Centre on Wednesday is at 7pm.